Deciding where you need to go is the first step to planning your travel. In the absence of wealth screening data or other ratings, I've found it helpful to run a list of every donor who has given $1,000 or more in the last 5 years to my institution. That provides me with a basis for deciding what major metropolitan areas I should visit over the course of the next year.
Then you'll need to decide on your travel method. I have used car, plane and train to get where I need to be and each has its own set of pros and cons. You will need to try out different methods and develop your own personal preferences of course.
For flights, I start with kayak.com. I like it because I am close to at least 5 possible airports and Kayak gives you great results for looking at nearby airports. This means I can quickly see which airport has the best possible prices for my organization's budget. Then I also check out Southwest too. Southwest airfares won't be in any of the standard databases or searches. Once I have decided on the exact flights I want, I go over to expedia.com because I can pick my exact seat on every flight. This is useful if my family is traveling with me (as they do from time to time) because I go back and purchase the same exact flights with my personal card and select the seats right next to mine.
I'm a Hilton Honors member, so I often make that my next stop. (It doesn't matter which loyalty program you join but you will want to join one of them.) I use the Hilton website in close concert with Google Maps because I want to know where my hotel is compared with the home and office locations of most of the donors I need to see. I especially need to know how close everything is so I know whether I require a rental car. I find I'm partial to Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, and Hampton Inn brands. They have tea always available in the lobby, generous breakfast and most have laundry on site (a must if you ever travel with kids).
For rental cars, I like priceline. I try to avoid doing rental cars whenever I can use public transport and/or taxis to get to my visits. When I must have one, I'm not loyal to any one vendor. Price is the big factor.
When I arrive, I make extensive use of Google Maps and also Yelp to find places nearby to eat. To make reservations for donor lunches or dinners, I like Open Table. I also like a little history app called Clio. If I'm ever waiting anywhere, I just pull this up and the app shows me all the historical sites that are nearby. It's a great way to get to know a city even if you are too busy to actually go see much of it.
I have a very specific way that I prep documents for my travel too. Check back for that post next week.
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Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.